Collective Impact

what is collective impact?

... A proven model of collaboration used nation-wide.

... Nonprofits, local government, school districts, businesses and other local organziations working together to
make Larimer County a better place for all of us.

... Achieving more together than any single person or organization can do alone.

... Making sure all of our students are entering school ready to learn, reading at grade level,
staying in school, and graduating on time.

... Giving all children the opportunity to succeed in Larimer County.

... Long-lasting community change.

Collaboration is nothing new. The social sector is filled with examples of partnerships, networks, and other types of joint efforts.

But collective impact collaboration is distinctly different. Unlike most collaborations, Collective Impact involves collaborative working groups that share responsibility and accountability to tackle some of our community’s most pressing issues like family financial stability, high school graduation rates, and children’s success in our schools.

Collective impact changes the game - not just the odds.

“We can’t just think about what’s one program in one organization doing. We have to flip it around. We have to think about the people and kids that we are serving and what they need to be successful. Then invest in those areas that are most needed.”  - Rebecca Toll, Director of Community Building at United Way of Larimer County

Learn more about the collective impact approach with this video from the Collective Impact Forum:

It all started with the needs of the Larimer County community. Though poverty is often described as a "hidden issue", Larimer County has made great strides in shedding light on its complexities over the last ten years. in 2007, US Census Bureau  statistics revealed that poverty in Larimer County was growing at a rapid pace. In fact, it was growing 1.4 times faster than the rest of the state, and 5.6 times faster than the rest of the nation. This sparked the beginning of an important community conversation.

United Way of Larimer County, CSU's Center for Public Deliberation, the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation, and the Fort Collins Coloradoan brought together service providers, business leaders, funders, and hundreds of community members to identify and better understand the root causes of poverty in Larimer County. The Pathways Past Poverty (P3) effort was designed to educate and empower citizens, public institutions, and human service agencies about  the nature, extent, causes, and solutions of poverty in Larimer County. 

In 2012, based on the P3 learnings, United Way of Larimer County held listening sessions with our community partner agencies, donors, and community members. We asked them what they needed from us in terms of support, including things like what they wanted from us in a partnership, what kind of funding was needed, and how we could address the findings from the P3 initiative. Out of these listening sessions, we came up with the Community Impact Partnership, and pivoted our model to address root causes that deliver long-lasting community wide change that ultimately reduces poverty in Larimer County. We recognized that our strength as an organization was the ability to convene a diverse sector of the community and to drive a common community agenda. Therefore, we stepped into the role as a backbone and pulled together all of the isolated change efforts happening and launched Collective Impact initiative.

Our shift to this new Collective Impact model supports our bold goal: Cut Poverty in Half in Larimer County by 2025.

Our role in the Collective Impact initiative is to support and sustain. We are committed to building out the network and capacity of our Community Impact Partners, enabling them to drive transformational change in Larimer County. To do this, we leverage and mobilize resources, foster the Community Impact Partner network, and support initiatives that build a thriving community.

"It is energizing to work with a group of visionaries who, instead of competing for precious resources, are eager to share and collaborate for the greater good of the people we serve.  Not every community can say that they have banded around a common goal and are willing to take some creative risks to try to reach that goal.  I think history has shown us that it is those individuals and groups who have tried something new, taken a different approach, or gone above and beyond that really make an impact.  Often, in this work, it is easy to get stuck in a pattern of service delivery.  Working with a collective group gives you space and energy to look beyond that pattern."

- Stephany from Project Self-Sufficiency

The work that we do is only as good as the outcomes produced. That said, community change can be notoriously difficult to track. However, we do a number of things to track our progress. One is that we are working closely with Colorado State University (CSU) to track a variety of data points, In addition, we work with our collaborative working groups to encourage data sharing and having the same rubric tracking system. We also use a number of “Markers of Change." These markers must be met in order to achieve any sort of large scale change in the local poverty level, student achievement statistics, employment rates, etc. These markers include:

  • Continuous communication engages, informs, and inspires
  • Access to quality programs and services
  • Effective use of service delivery systems
  • Use of evidence based or evidence informed practices
  • Actionable information is used for decision making
  • Use of shared measurement and metrics
  • Fill gaps and reduced duplication of services
  • Use of joint planning and decision making
  • Effective use of volunteers
  • Access to quality data in a timely manner
  • Development and use of a collective plan of action
  • Commitment to a shared vision and goal
  • Knowledge of assets, needs and gaps
  • Shared investment

As the backbone, we are working to create the network needed for our Community Impact Partners to create long-lasting community change. We use the above markers to assess whether or not progress is being made. Are we all using shared measurement and metrics? Are we working together to jointly make plans and decisions? Are we working together to fill gaps and reduce duplication of services? The process is always evolving, but the answer to many of these questions is yes. Click here to learn how our Kids on Track collaborative working group put their heads and resources together to fill a community gap and set the stage for more great work in our community.

From the past four years, we have learned a lot about the process and the community needs through our Collective Impact Partners and collaborative working groups. Large scale community change efforts are complex, and in order to sustain this work, we are looking to deepen, broaden, and adapt our work at the partnershp network level, and implement at the systems level. There are several organizations in Larimer County serving those in need. With our big bold goal being to reduce poverty by 2025, we want to ensure that as many of thes organizations as possible are working together to ensure that everyone is given the chance to succeed.

Here are the five tenets of Collective Impact which we will follow to pursue our bold goal of reducing poverty by 50% by 2025:

1. Authentic Community Engagement.

We will enage the Larimer County Community authentically. This means with equity and inclusion. It also means that we are all in this together, and that no matter how many Community Impact Partners we have, we still need involvement from the larger community. How do you want to be involved?

2. Shared Aspiration

All organizations and individuals involved with our collective impact effort share aspirations towards the same goals and visions of change in our community. We have all agreed on how we will work together to achieve these goals.

3. Strategic Learning

Learning and improving our processes is about data, but it isn't just about data. It's about learning from what we've done and changing and improving our process based on what we've learned. This is our commitment to continual improvement. To learn more about how we do this, see "How do we track our progress?"

4. Focusing on high-leverage activities and flexible working relationships

To work together effectively and efficiently, and to reduce duplication of work, we must focus on those activities that yield the best results. These are our high-leverage activities. In order to do this, organizations and programs working together to achieve our collective goals must have flexible working relationships, alternately taking initiative and stepping back to let others run the show according to individual strengths, while at other times working together equally to solve a problem. 

5. Creating a container for change

This is where we come in as the backbone. Our role in this collective impact work is to create the network that enables authentic community engagement, shared aspiration, strategic learning, and focus on high-leverage activities while maintaining flexible working relationships.

Do you want to be a part of the change? If you work for an agency that has interest in being a Community Impact Partner, contact us here. If you want to volunteer with our collective impact work, click here. To support our work with a donation, click here